Visa Inc. / Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Eighth Annual Financial Literacy Summit
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Welcome Remarks by Bill Sheedy, Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy, M&A, and Government Relations, Visa Inc.

Thank you very much Alejo for that kind introduction. I am honored to be here at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

To the fifteen hundred people from more than fifty nations watching live online and to all of the financial education leaders with us in Chicago, welcome to the eighth annual Financial Literacy Summit, co-hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Visa.

This is truly a model partnership between the public and private sectors, thanks to the extremely dedicated team at the Federal Reserve Bank here in Chicago: Charlie Evans, Cathie Bourke, Alejo Torres, Tiffany Butler, Emily Lowe and everyone who labors year-round to make this event possible. And I want to acknowledge Doug Tillett who helped create these Summits and is now in Washington, working on Dr. Yellen's team.

The 9,000 employees at Visa Inc. join me in thanking all of you for the tremendous efforts you make every day to advance the cause of financial education around the world. The progress you have made over the past eight years is truly impressive. We are here because of you.

There is much we can be proud of: From the public agency head who has helped raise the issue of financial literacy to the highest levels within her government… to the school administrator who made learning about personal finance a priority within his district… to the bank executive who added financial education as a strategic pillar within her company's corporate social responsibility platform… to the non-profit leader who organizes volunteers every day to teach this crucial subject.

And yet, we all know there is still more to be done.

Why focus today on the unbanked and underbanked? Is financial education important for a segment of the population that is largely excluded from formal financial services? I believe the answer is an unqualified "yes."

The facts are well-known: At this moment, 2.5 billion adults worldwide do not even have a basic bank account. And those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who do have an account may be banked in name only. In developed countries, 64 percent of all adults have – and actively use – bank accounts. But in developing countries just 7 percent of adults have accounts and actually use them.

Providing these adults with useful, scalable and accessible financial services is just one piece of the puzzle. These very same people need to know how to use these products wisely and have the skills and confidence to manage their money soundly.

If we declare victory when a young mother in Toronto opens a bank account for the first time, or when a recent high school graduate from Bermuda acquires a prepaid card, then we have failed.

These are all excellent first steps, but unless we help empower them with the knowledge to manage their money, we are doing them no favors. It is the economic equivalent of handing a teenager the keys to a brand new car when she has never driven before. A wreck, financial or otherwise, is inevitable.

The only way we can be successful in bringing these 2.5 billion people into the economic mainstream is to provide them with financial education long before they ever acquire account numbers.

We do our best to exemplify this philosophy at Visa. Our financial inclusion team is fully dedicated to building the partnerships, infrastructure, products and demand to bring everyone, everywhere into the financial mainstream.

At the same time, Visa's nearly 20 year commitment to financial education grows ever stronger. I'd like to share with you a few examples of our most recent financial literacy activities:

At Visa we never stop asking ourselves if the way we did things yesterday is still the best way today, or will be the best tomorrow. The needs in financial education and inclusion are constantly evolving, just as financial products, communications channels and the very underpinning of the global economy are continuously in flux.

As part of that ongoing evaluation process we have identified an emerging need in the United States with newly discharged veterans. Many young veterans have been found to lack the fundamentals of personal finance and are therefore more likely to use expensive alternative financial products such as payday loans and pawn shops.

To meet this need, in the coming weeks Visa will unveil a financial capability initiative to help ensure our nation's new veterans have the knowledge and tools they need to secure a stable financial future as they re-enter civilian life.

Turning back to today, we have assembled some of the best minds from around the world to discuss the unique needs, challenges and opportunities for providing meaningful support to the un- and underbanked.

The remarkable speakers on our two panels today are further proof that the governments of the world realize that a key pillar in the financial health of their nations, and of the global economy, is a population that is financially included and literate.

Today's Summit is meant to be a true dialogue and we'd like our distinguished speakers to address your questions.

So to everyone watching online and in this room who has questions, please Tweet them using the hashtag #FinLitSummit. Our moderators will take a selection of these questions and pose them to the speakers.

We will also use Twitter today to track the thematic trends of the questions and we will share that information on the screens during the Summit.

So take a minute and Tweet in a question.

I have the pleasure now of introducing the moderator for our first panel.

Linda Stern is the editor in charge of wealth management at Thomson Reuters and author of the award-winning "Stern Advice" personal finance column. She is also the author of the book, "Money-Smart Secrets for the Self-Employed."

Previously, Linda worked as a senior personal finance contributor for Reuters' Washington, D.C., bureau. Her past jobs have included contributing editor for Newsweek and blogger for CBS MarketWatch. She received bachelor's degrees in both English and journalism from the University of Maryland.

Linda's sharp journalistic instincts make her an ideal moderator for this first panel. Please join me in welcoming Linda Stern and our panelists.